Informative Odishi performance and demo by Guru Alpana

By Ashok Kumar



alpana-1-By Ashok Kumar
Sydney, Aug 30: The Indian Consulate in Sydney organised at Indian Cultural Centre an evening of Odissi performance, workshop and lecture-cum-demonstration by well known exponent of the dance form Guru Alpana Nayak, trained at the renowned Nrutya Sangeet Kala Mandir, Balasore.

She was conferred the title of Guru by SWID, Bangladesh in 2010 and the Usha Rani Samman by her alma-mater Nrutya Sangeet Kala Mandir, Balasore in 2012. She was also conferred the Vishishtha Odia Samman by Jatiya Odia Sammilani, Delhi in 2015.

Giving her introduction, acting Consul General, Dr. Vinod Bahade said Guru Alpana Nayak is a graded artist with Doordarshan, an empanelled artist of Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and a recipient of fellowship from the Ministry of Culture, Govt. Of India. She has performed at the major festivals in India and overseas noteworthy among them are Festival of Khajuraho, Elephanta Festival, Kalidas Samaroha, Virasat Festival, International Odissi Festival, Sindhu Darshan-Ladakh,Sankat Mochan festival-Varanasi, Island Festival- Port Blair and the Mahabalipuram Dance Festival. Besides, she has [erformed in England, Japan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka Thailand and Mongolia.

Guru Alpana said this was her first visit to Australia and informed the select and knowledgeable audience that Odissi was declared a classical dance in 1953 and she started learning it at a very young age and by the time she graduated from the Nrutya Kendra she was only 19. Since then she has been giving perormances in India and overseas, earning various titles.

Before she began her performance, she apprised the audience that Odishi or Odissi commences with ‘Mangalaacharna’ that has five distinct acts beginning with ‘Pushpanjali- in which the dancer offers flowers, seeks to make space sacred and ready for dance. This is followed by ‘Bhoomi Pranam’ or obesience to mother earth or seeking permission to dance on her and seeking forgiveness for inadvertently hurting her while dancing on her. This is also described as an equivalent to Arangetram in Bharatnatyam. Then is the ‘Deva Pranam’ in which the dancers offer their body, mind and soul to the divine through prayer and seek blessing to perform to the best of one’s ability. Sabha Pranam is meant to seek forgiveness from the audience for any mistakes while performing.

While performing ‘Mangalaacharna’ Guru Alpana offered prayer to Goddess Saraswati who has been depicted as “Jagat Jannani”– the mother of the whole world, “Vak Vilassini” Goddess of Speech, “Sanget Rasike”– the great lover of music and “Kalyani” the doer of Good. The shlokas like Manikaya Veena Mupla Layanti are written by Mahakavi Kalidasa.

Giving the performance, her next act was Basant Pallavi. She explained that Pallavi is a traditional prt of the Odishi repertoire which showcases the dancer’s ability to perform ‘pure dance’ form. The movements in ths form are extremely graceful and lyrical. Guru Alpana went on to explain literal meaning of the word Pallavi– derived from Sanskrit word Pallava meaning shoot. The dance depicts the growth of a plant from a shoot to bud and then glorious flower. Noteworthy are the beats, footwork and body movements.

This was followed by ‘abhinaya’ considered to be the most important act of Odishi. This form is also known as an ‘expressional’ act where a story is conveyed through hand gestures or hasta mudras and drishti bhedas or eye movements.

The last act was ‘mokshya’ or the dancer giving herself completely to the dance or divine. Before performing this form, she narrated an incident that once while performing she got so immersed in the dance that she forgot that her back was facing the audience and when the dance was over she was berated by her gurus but very well appreciated by the audience. Such was the level of performance.

Coming back to the performance of the evening, the dancer dances with the hope of meeting the almighty, trough the movements of her feet, mudras of her hands and through a sigular focus of bringing body with her mind. The dance moves on to a cresendo, that is trilling to both eyes and ear. With the cosmic sound of ‘Om’ the dance dissolves into nothingness.

Guru Alpana is also associated with A.L.P.A.N.A (Association for Learning Performing Arts and Normativ Actions) set up in East Delhi with the objectives of working towards the growth, promotion of visual and performing arts, holistic human development through multidiciplinary frameworks and paradigms, empowerment of differently abled persons, teah8ng and training throigh workshops, exchange programmes and publications.

A.L.P.A.N.A has made significant contribution in spreading awareness about rich cultural heritage of India, especially Odishi dance, Hindustani vocal and instrumental music.

Under the programme Indradhanush ( rainbow) A.L.P.A.N.A organises different dance and music events, presented by budding classical dancers trained by Guru Alpana. The students of A.L.P.A.N.A had a rare privilege of performing before the then President Dr. A. P.J Abdul Kalam in 2006 and also had the honour of performing at the National Awards Distribution Ceremony oranised by the Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment at Vigyan Bhawan in 2013 attended by President Pranab Mukherjee.

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Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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